BAGHDAD — Jordan's King Abdullah II held talks Monday with Iraq's prime minister after coming to Baghdad on an unannounced visit, the first by an Arab head of state since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Abdullah called on Arab governments to "extend their hand to Iraq" because a strong Iraq "is a source of strength for the Arab nation," according to a statement released by the royal palace in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
An Iraqi government statement said Abdullah had "frank and positive talks" with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on relations between the two countries.
Ties between the neighboring countries had been strained since the fall of Hussein because of Jordanian fears that Iraq's Shiite-led government was too friendly with Shiite-dominated Iran.
Jordanian officials have been concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq and the loss of discounted oil, which Hussein once provided. Abdullah warned in 2004 about the emergence of a "Shiite crescent" including Iran, Iraq and Lebanon — remarks that angered Iraqi officials.
But U.S. officials had been urging Abdullah to visit Iraq to bolster ties between the two countries as part of Washington's campaign to shore up support for the Iraqi government as a counterweight to Iranian influence.
Maliki visited Jordan in June for the first time in nearly two years, and since then, the two nations appear willing to put their differences behind them. During that visit, Maliki agreed to renew oil supplies to Jordan for the next three years at discounted prices.
Jordan has also named an ambassador to Iraq, joining other Arab countries that have agreed to upgrade their relations as the Iraqi government becomes more stable and security has improved — despite sporadic attacks and ongoing military operations.
BOMBER STRIKES: Northeast of Baghdad, a female suicide bomber struck a market checkpoint in the Diyala province capital of Baqubah, killing at least one police officer and wounding 14 other people, including nine officers, officials said. Another bomb exploded in the Wijaihiyah area nearby, killing five women and wounding three others, the U.S. military said. Also Monday, a bomb under a car exploded in eastern Baghdad, killing the driver and wounding two other people, police said.